Signed Magritte (upper left); titled La Science des Rêves on the reverse
Mr. and Mrs. A. Cuvelier, Brussels (acquired from the artist in the 1940s and sold: Sotheby's, London, November 12, 1970, lot 69)
Private Collection, United States (since 1970)
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield and Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, II: Oil Paintings and Objects, 1931-1948, London, 1993, illustrated p. 451
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield and Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, IV: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1919-1967, London, 1994, no. 1187, illustrated p. 58 (titled [Le Jardin des rêves])
Painted circa 1944-1945, Le Science des rêves dates from a period in which Magritte experimented with Impressionist techniques. The works from this period maintain many of the same subjects and psychological complexities that persist throughout his oeuvre, but Magritte strays from his former adherence to detail and paints with a looser brushstroke. In Le Science des rêves, he presents the same image in three separate states. Beyond a stone windowsill which frames the composition, an evening landscape provides the central theme which is repeated in the pages of a book on a pedestal in the foreground. As opposed to the hallucinatory dreamscapes which dominated many Surrealist works at the time, Magritte finds the surreal in the landscape around him. Ingried Brugger writes, "To the passively receptive states favoured by classical surrealism, Magritte replies with a simulated paranoia, a self-contained system of delusions and unrealities. Instead of hallucination and the stylistic enciphering to which it leads, we are confronted with veristic renderings of a world disassembled into parts and fragments, then reassembled as if by some alien, otherworldy hand" (Ingried Brugger, René Magritte: The Key to Dreams (exhibition catalogue), BA-CA Kunstforum, Vienna, 2005, p. 10). Also evident in the present picture is a dialogue between day and night, a theme that recurs throughout his artistic career and particularly during the 1940s.
This gouache is closely related to an oil on canvas depicting the same subject which Magritte painted in 1942. In the catalogue raisonné on the artist's work, the authors, who titled the present work Le Jardin des rêves because they had not seen the title on the reverse, provided the following information: "While it is inconceivable on stylistic grounds that it was painted by 1942, it could possibly have been done in 1943, although in our opinion it is far more likely that it dates from 1944 or 1945. Magritte seems to have painted very few gouaches at the beginning of his 'impressionist' period and only seriously reapplied himself to that medium when he was preparing for his one-man show at the Dietrich Gallery in November 1946. The earliest documented gouache in the 'impressionist' style is La condition humaine, cat. 1190, which was painted by October 1945 -- but it remains the only gouache of its kind that can be dated with certainty before 1946. Since the present work is closer in style, particularly in its use of the wispy brushstroke, to cat. 1190, than it is to any of the gouaches known to have been done in 1946, we suggest that it was either painted in 1944 or 1945" ( David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield and Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, IV: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1919-1967, London, 1994, p. 58).
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